IMPORTANT PATIENT UPDATES
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COVID-19 Vaccine Information (updated 3/1/2021)
As of March 1, 2021, there are three available vaccines against the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 in the US. These were developed by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson. All three vaccines have been approved by the FDA for emergency use based on their efficacy and safety.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, while the Johnson and Johnson vaccine requires only one dose. In general, vaccination is expected to far outweigh any risk from the vaccine. At Rheumatology Associates, we believe that getting vaccinated is very important and we are urging all of our patients to get any of the available vaccines.
Should I adjust my medications around the time of vaccination?
When getting ready to receive your vaccine, please be aware that The American College of Rheumatology has recently published guidance regarding the use of immune suppressing medications around the time of the vaccine. Based on the available information, patients taking the following medications may continue them without change: Prednisone <20 mg/day (or glucocorticoid equivalent), sulfasalazine, leflunomide (Arava), mycophenolate (Cellcept, Myfortic), azathioprine (Imuran), oral cyclophosphamide, Enbrel (erelzi, eticovo), Humira (amjevita, cyltezo, hyrimoz, hadlima, hulio), Simponi, Simponi Aria, Remicade, Inflectra, Renflexis, Ixifi, Avsola, Cimzia, Actemra, Kevzara, Cosentyx, Taltz, Tremfya, Stelara, Kineret, Ilaris, Benlysta, Cyclosporine, and Tacrolimus.
Patients receiving other medications such as Methotrexate, Xeljanz, Olumiant, Rinvoq, Orencia (both self-injections and intravenous), Rituximab (truxima, ruxience, riabni) and intravenous Cyclophosphamide may benefit from temporarily holding the medication when receiving the vaccine if their disease is well controlled and may allow it. Before holding or making any changes to your medications, please contact your provider.
Who can get vaccinated right now in Texas?
The state of Texas continues to vaccinate people who belong to the 1B group. This includes people older than 65 years of age and those with certain medical conditions. Per the American College of Rheumatology Covid-19 vaccine task force, patients with autoimmune and inflammatory rheumatic diseases may be at increased risk of severe Covid-19 infection compared with the general population of similar age and sex. While the state of Texas does not specifically list autoimmune and inflammatory rheumatic diseases as high-risk conditions for Phase 1B vaccinations, patients who are on any of the medications listed in this document may qualify for vaccination now. Please sign up for a vaccine appointment or wait list and be sure to list your rheumatologic diagnosis and rheumatology medications in your health history.
Where can I get a vaccine for Covid-19?
Rheumatology Associates is not offering vaccination services against COVID-19 at this time, but please check our website frequently for new updates. If you are trying to find where to get vaccinated please check COVID-19 Vaccine Information (texas.gov) or call 211 for a referral to a local vaccine provider.
What should I do if I am diagnosed with Covid-19?
There are several monoclonal antibody treatments currently available for treatment of Covid-19 in patients who are at increased risk of progression to severe Covid-19. These one-time intravenous treatments must be given early in disease. If you have confirmed or strongly suspected Covid-19, please contact your PCP as soon as possible to discuss whether you may be a candidate for one of these treatments. After you contact your PCP, let your rheumatologist know as there may be specific recommendations regarding what to do with your immune suppressing medications while you are ill.
COVID-19 General Information:
COVID-19 cases and deaths have continued to rise in the US. Although we now have two approved vaccines (click here for more information about vaccines) for the prevention of COVID-19, we must remain vigilant. The CDC recommendations to slow down the spread of the disease include:
- Wear a mask with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric that fits snugly against the sides of your face.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you cannot wash your hands.
- Stay at least 6 feet apart from others who do not live with you and avoid crowds.
- If you are going outside avoid indoor spaces as much as possible, particularly ones that aren’t well ventilated.
- If you are sick, stay home except to get medical care and isolate.
If someone in your household becomes ill with suspected or confirmed coronavirus, try to isolate that person from yourself as much as possible. If it is an option, consider staying in a different place until that person is recovered and felt to be no longer contagious. You will need to self-quarantine if you have a close contact with someone who has suspected or confirmed coronavirus infection.
If you are on immune suppressing medication (such as sulfasalazine, methotrexate, azathioprine, CellCept, Cytoxan, any injectable or infusion medication for autoimmune disease, Xeljanz, Olumiant, or Rinvoq), we recommend the following if you do develop signs of infection such as fever, cough, muscle aches, etc.:
- Stop your immune suppressing medication immediately. This will help your body be better able to fight off any infection.
- Contact your PCP for instructions about where to go to be evaluated or get tested if needed or go to urgent care or ER if your symptoms indicate you require immediate medical attention.
- Contact our office to keep us informed of your status.
- Once you are clearly improving and the infection is resolving, you can resume your immune suppressing medication.
- If you are on Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine), you may continue it.
Keep in mind this is a highly fluid situation and the current recommendations are based on our present understanding of the situation and may change in the future.
We recommend using the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker, it is an interactive clinical assessment tool that will assist individuals ages 13 and older, on deciding when to seek testing or medical care if they suspect they or someone they know has contracted COVID-19 or has come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
We also recommend visiting the CDC’s webpage about COVID-19 for the most up to date information about the virus. This can be found at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
If you are experiencing fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath or have been in contact with someone with these symptoms – DO NOT ENTER OUR LOBBY/OFFICE.
We now offer telehealth visits. To change your upcoming appointment to a telehealth visit or to schedule one, please send our office a message through the patient portal (**preferred method of communication with our office**) or call 214-540-0704. Please note that call volume is high. If you reach the voicemail, please leave a detailed message, and we will return your call as soon as we are able.